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Students make the most of summer opportunities

A photo of students at Peabody Australia.

Three students — Thomas Hohenwarter, Sara Dalen and Keegan Patrick — had the opportunity to intern at Peabody Australia this past summer.

As the fall semester gets underway at West Virginia University, students from the Statler College are reflecting on the opportunities that took them around the globe this summer. Through internships, fellowships and work experiences, these students gained a wealth of knowledge that will guide them into their future careers.


Mining “Down Under”

When WVU alumnus George Schuller (BSMinE ‘86) was named president of Peabody Australia in 2017, he made it one of his goals to get WVU engineering students involved in the company. His initiative led to the launch of an all-expenses paid summer internship experience at Peabody AU for top-performing students studying civil and mining engineering.

After receiving more than 20 applications for the inaugural program, Sara Dalen, Keegan Patrick and Thomas Hohenwarter were selected and headed to New South Wales to receive their work assignments.

“Going to Australia was my first time out of the country,” said Patrick, a mining and civil engineering dual major from Scott Depot. “I actually applied for my passport the same day I submitted my application to Peabody. I was initially interested in the opportunity based on the adventure aspect but I was also interested in seeing the differences in coal mining between the United States and Australia.”

Patrick was assigned to work at Wambo Complex, a mine that employs both surface and underground mining techniques in Hunter Valley. He worked on both sides of the mine, taking part in creating engineering design projects and working with the site’s blast crew.

As president of the WVU Mine Rescue Team, the most memorable part of the experience for him was getting to take part in a 10-day mine rescue induction, which allowed him to become mine rescue certified in NSW.

“The whole course culminated with an exercise scenario at a local underground mine, in which we put into practice everything we’d learned throughout the experience,” said Patrick. “It was neat to see the differences between the United States and Australia when it comes to mine rescue and to be able to participate in the training.”

Dalen, a civil engineering major from Franklin, was assigned to the environmental team at the Wilpinjong surface mine in Mudgee. Her duties included managing noise and dust monitors around the site and attending community meetings to inform locals about the mine’s activities.

“This internship greatly enhanced my knowledge and general understanding of the coal mining industry,” said Dalen. “The most valuable thing I learned was the importance of safety in the workplace and how easy it is to look out for your mates at work to ensure everyone goes home at the end of the day.”

For Dalen, the internship offered more than just a well-paying summer job. The experience allowed her to learn about the Aboriginal culture, attend rugby matches, participate in bush walks and rock climb in the Blue Mountains. She also expanded her professional network.

“This internship gave me the opportunity to meet so many people of notable importance within Peabody,” said Dalen. “My connections in the professional world have expanded tenfold. It also greatly enhance my knowledge and general understanding of the coal mining industry.”

Hohenwarter’s internship took place at the Metropolitan underground mine in Helensburgh. Before going to Australia, he had little-to-no experience working in underground mines, but dived into the opportunity to learn new skills. He assisted site engineers on projects related to gas drainage and surveying and also worked to increase the overall production efficiency at the mine.

“When I learned about the opportunity to go to Australia to work in an underground mine I was excited to try out an entirely new experience,” said Hohenwarter, who graduated in May with a degree in mining engineering from Lancaster Pennsylvania. “I had no experience working in underground mines but I also had no idea what I wanted to do after graduation so I went into the program with nothing to lose.”

Hohenwarter found that he really enjoyed working with underground mines and now plans to make a career out of it. He recently submitted an application for a full-time engineering position at Peabody AU. The unique position will allow him to work in Australia for a term of two years, splitting his time between two locations -- one underground and one surface mine.

“When I decided to major in mining engineering I never thought I would end up in Australia,” said Hohenwarter. “Not everyone gets to say they’ve had the chance to work in Australia and now I’ll have the opportunity to live and start my career there.”

A family affair

Sophia Brescoach, an industrial engineering major from Mannington, spent her summer interning at The Thrasher Group in Bridgeport, which turned out to be a family affair. She was hired for a position in the energy utilities department, where she was able to work alongside her brother, Spencer Brescoach, who is an environmental technician with the company.

“Working with my brother meant a lot to me,” said Brescoach. “He is the main reason I decided to pursue an engineering degree and has always been my role model.”

Brescoach was tasked with working on projects related to hydraulics and was able to gain hands on work experience with the program KY Pipes, a pipe network analysis software. Using the software, she analyzed the amount of water that would run through pipes at her assigned locations and the maximum pressure they could withstand.

After getting some experience under her belt, Brescoach was able to join her brother out in the field to work on an erosion and sediment controls project. The pair worked as a team to prevent soil run off at their work site that could potentially cause water pollution.

“This was my first internship so I didn’t have much engineering experience outside of a classroom setting,” said Brescoach. “My brother was able to teach me how to have a good work ethic and showed me how to love the work you do. Getting to learn from his career for my future career is a memory I will forever cherish.”

Making the most of work and play

After being selected to participate in a National Science Foundation-funded summer research fellowship with the National Institute of Standards and Technology, Will Howard headed to Boulder, Colorado, for a summer experience that combined both work and play.

Howard, an electrical engineering major and Honors College student from Morgantown, conducted research in NIST’s Public Safety Communications Research Division. He worked in a group setting to develop testing protocols for the 3rd Generation Partnership Project, a collaboration between groups of telecommunication companies to develop new technologies for 3G cellular networks. The goal of the project is to standardize devices used within LTE, to ensure that devices work together seamlessly.

“My group was sort of like the legal side of electrical engineering,” said Howard. “We wrote the rules that future phones will follow.”

When Howard wasn’t working, he dedicated his time to experiencing all of the natural wonders Colorado had to offer.

“I’ve always been an outdoorsy-type guy, but Boulder definitely brought it out of me,” said Howard. “For the first four weeks I was in Boulder, I went hiking almost every afternoon.”

After working his way through all of the main hikes in town, Howard began branching out to bigger destinations on the weekend. By the time his fellowship ended he had summited four of Colorado’s 52 fourteeners, mountains with peaks that reach 14,000 feet above sea level.

“Work and play are both important and my summer gave me the opportunity for both,” said Howard. “Working at NIST gave me the opportunity to see a whole different side of my field, experience beautiful places and make connections that will last my lifetime. It's given me more direction and a better understanding of where I want to fit into the world."

Internship = employment offer

Rebakah Kambara is a computer science major from Charleston, who has always understood the value of participating in an internship. Determined to get as much experience under her belt before graduating in December, she sought out a summer position at Northrop Grumman, in Annapolis, Maryland.

Kambara landed a job as a technical intern and began working on a team comprised of four interns to assist with programming and writing code for the company.

“I loved the work I was assigned and I especially loved the environment of my workplace,” said Kambara. “My supervisors fostered an environment that encouraged all of us to think outside the box and come up with our own ideas and plans.”

For Kambara, the biggest milestone of the internship was when she was challenged to participate in a client demo that was set up as a hack-a-thon. The team had to work together and share ideas to solve unique coding problems and make adjustments based off of client feedback in a timed environment.

The hack-a-thon experience showed Kambara that her time at WVU had prepared her for the transition into the work force more than she had realized.

“I was surprised by how much school knowledge I was able to apply in my work,” said Kambara. “Many topics in my upper-level courses seemed too specific or specialized to ever be used outside of a school project but that was simply not the case. I was able to apply specialized concepts to my assigned tasks which helped me develop more efficient and smart code that I never would have been able to create otherwise.”

Impressed by her skills and ability to tackle new challenges, Northrop Grumman offered Kambara a full- time position as a cyber-software engineer. Her position will begin this winter following graduation.



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